I really do try to follow directions when it comes to my work. I read all the instructions on the back of each finish or paint I purchase, I prep the projects accordingly and I google anything and everything to try and create the best finished product I can. But sometimes…I’m just too impatient — or my vision for the project just isn’t translating into the real world as I wanted it to. If for some reason said project starts to look worse than it did on the side of the road, then that’s when I really start to break the rules. I’ll try anything to fix it in that moment, if it starts to get worse than I usually hate myself for being so impulsive, if it starts to get better, I blow smoke up my own ass and think of how one can be such a genius.
Why am I going on a rant about proper application of paint or stain, or prepping a surface correctly? Because sometimes it really just doesn’t matter what the product says you’re supposed to do with it. “For best results” is all relative.
For instance, take this dresser covered in layers of paint. Latex, oil, lead – the whole shebang. It’s old and looks like crap because paint was just slopped on. Which is why I’m sure it was on the side of the road. I could tell the piece was solid and I was attracted to the simple, mid-century lines and oversized pull handles. Naturally the first step was to remove all those layers of paint. My method of choice when it comes to layers of old finishes? Paint remover — I’ll take the toxic fumes over lead dust. “Strips all paints in 30 minutes!” No it doesn’t.
It was hot as hell outside and the humidity was off the charts. I followed the instructions for proper application. That’s an hour and a half of paint removal in mid-May in Massachusetts. I was burning up like a hooker in church surrounded by toxic chemicals wearing goggles and the thickest, longest chemical gloves you’ve ever seen. We’re talking “Breaking Bad” status here, without the meth. So not only was I dripping sweat onto the dresser, I’m pretty sure the fumes were starting to get to me as well. After playing nice with my putty knife and pick set, I grabbed my beastly wire brush and attacked the dresser drawers. Not only does lead paint cause dementia when ingested — which my brain cannot afford, it turns to goo when using paint remover. I was basically brushing the paint around on the wood.
Once I realized these streaks of forest green and white were here to stay, I decided to take a chance and go with a distressed look. I feathered out the paint to smooth the edges so it blended nicely with the wood and sealed it with polyurethane. Going back to my rules rant — all polyurethane products say they cannot be applied over paint — is a lie. I found this out by breaking the rules and coming up with a different, but equally admirable finished product. The polyurethane is smooth to the touch and dried perfectly, just as it would on a clean, clear wooden surface.
The frame of the dresser was a different story and was able to be completely stripped because of its simple shape. So no problems there.
What’s my point here? Break the rules and get creative. Experiment with your findings. If you picked something from the trash and it ends up looking like shit…you can always put it back in the trash.
If you enjoyed reading this article, or you’re interested to see what else I’ve created, you can find me on Etsy here.